It’s no secret that maintaining a blended family is hard work. Marriage is hard work, but marriage in a blended family can feel insurmountable at times.
Despite how well you co-parent with the other home, tension always finds a way to arise. Even the best co-parenting situations are complicated at times.
It’s no secret that blended families are the most efficient when all parties get along. You don’t need to love everything about one another, but if you can get along, the blended family boat stays afloat, and the anxieties that come with co-parenting remain sunken with the anchor.
There was a time in my stepmomming journey when I truly believed we would never co-parent successfully with the other home. I thought too much damage had been done between my husband and his ex-wife. I thought that her perspectives would never change. I thought the annoyances that came with our differences in parenting styles would keep us torn apart.
Then, without warning, it all changed. One morning, I realized we had been working well together for several months. I realized the ex and I had actually started to form a relationship, all those years later. It hit me that I had been sleeping better, and my anxiety had been almost non-existent.
I tried to pinpoint what happened. What changed? Why are we working so well together now? Why have my husband and my stepdaughters’ mother stopped arguing all the time? How can we all sit around, swap stories, and laugh together? Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks… I’ve become friends with his ex!
So how did this happen?! What’s the secret?
The secret is a big one. This is the full-proof way to become friends with your stepchild’s Mom… Forget the past!
Seems simple, right?! But for many, it’s much easier said than done.
To form a relationship with your stepchild’s mom, you have to forget the past. Forget the baggage. Forget all of the pain that she may have caused your husband, or the terrible things you may have heard about her from others. Forget her outburst during that one trade six months ago. Forget about that rude email she sent last week that is still making you lose sleep at night. Forget feeling like you haven't been recognized for how good of a stepmom you are (Spoiler Alert: All moms feel this way, not just stepmoms). Forget about the small parenting differences… seriously, do not think about them!
It is impossible to foster a positive relationship with the Mom if you are holding on to negative feelings toward her.
This is not like any other relationship you’ve had before. You cannot cut her out of your life because she has wronged you or your husband once before (or twice, or three times, or 100 times…). No matter how good or bad of a parent she may be, she will remain one of the most important and influential people in the kids' lives forever. If you want to be a highly-efficient co-parenting team, you do not have the option of cutting her out.
You also do not have the option of "keeping it real" with her. You cannot say whatever you want to her, like you may be able to speak freely to an acquaintance if they upset you. You have to- within reason- let her words and actions roll off your back. To build a relationship with her, you have to let the past go. You have to forget about it!
Perhaps think of her as a colleague. Colleagues can be irritating, but you always remain friendly and professional with them. You brush anything wild they say or do right off your shoulders, and keep it moving. You repeatedly forget the past for the common goal of the task at hand. If it’s helpful, consider your stepchild’s mom a colleague. The relationship will blossom from there.
To become friends with your stepchild’s mom, you have to give her a clean slate. And maybe you have to keep wiping the slate clean, over and over again. If you’re having a friendly, positive conversation with her, and she derails it by bringing up something you don’t agree with, just divert the conversation back to a neutral place.
Additionally, despite growing your friendship with her, let your husband manage the parenting conversations. Establishing your friendship with the Mom will undoubtedly affect the way she interacts with your husband. This keeps the two of them in a business-minded relationship, while you are maintaining a positive friendship between both homes.
Look, I know that becoming friends with your stepchild’s mom is not reasonable in some situations. I know that it is not possible in all instances. With that in mind, if you want to be as highly-successful as possible in co-parenting, you need to drive the train. You have to change your perspective about the Mom, and the secret to accomplishing that is to forget the past!
If it can happen for us, it can happen for you. Hang in there, Mamas!